* Picture Credit: Ben Quinton.
I spent four years of my life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and one of my most vivid memories is seeing hundreds of Ethiopian men, women and youth training for long distance running, which is a sport that Ethiopians dominate at the Olympics and major marathons. Heard of Haile, Gebrselassie Kenenisa Bekele or Deratu Tulu? They all hail from Ethiopia. Kenyan’s also dominate long distance running as well. Inspired by the fact that I’ve been seeing a couple of documentaries focused on African long distance runners, plus the fact that it’s spring aka time to ‘get those summer bodies in check’, I’ve decided to spotlight African athletic brands that may be giving Nike a run for their money. The title says ‘Run Naawa Run’ because that’s my cousin’s name.
KOURAGE RUNNING (KENYA)
I first heard about this Kenyan brand via their twitter page, and a few weeks later, they were profiled on CNN! Kourage Athletics produces athletic wear in a factory located in the Rift Valley, which is home to some of Kenya’s greatest athletes.
*Pics via Kourage Athletics
Sawa has one of the most interesting ‘About US’pages of a brand I have ever read. They state “We are told here and there that the climate of the planet is going crazy……when the snow falls in Africa, we will be ready to produce the best ski boots….and snowboards!”. In the meantime, they produce some pretty cool shoes. I love the fact that the bottom of the shoe has the map of Africa. I’m not sure exactly where in Africa they are produced unfortunately.
OLIBERTE (Ethiopia, Liberia, Kenya)
My friend Marketing Extraordinaire Cynthia Tabe wrote a solid article via Africa Fashion Guide on ‘Oliberte’ which is made in Ethiopia, Liberia and Kenya with plans to expand in Cameroon, Congo, Zambia and Uganda in the future. They also plan on producing womens boots for this fall, and sandals for Spring 2013 season. A collection of laptop cases is in the works as well. There’s an interesting article titled ‘How Oliberte, the Anti Toms makes shoes and jobs in Africa’
SOLE REBELS (Ethiopia)
Sole Rebels are the kind of shoes athletes would wear off the field, court, pitch etc. They look really comfy , eco- friendly and made in Ethiopia. They have a large selection of products that can be viewed here.
SCHIER SHOES (NAMIBIA)
I found out about this brand in an issue of Arise magazine. Apparently, it has been around since 1938 and currently employs about eight Damaran artisans to produce the ‘vellies’ as they are called in Swakopmund, Namibia. Schier are also big on being eco-friendly as they used vegetable dyed Kudu leather to create their shows.
Town of Runners
I started the post talking about Ethiopian runners, so I thought I’d mention a new documentary called ‘Town of Runners’ about two young girls Hawii and Alemi from the Oromia region of Ethiopia who aspire to be world class runners. Its showing at the Tribeca Film Festival this month so I hope to check it out. Meanwhile, Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba will be making waves at the upcoming Olympics.
Abebe Bikila is arguably the most famous long distance Ethiopian runner. He was known for running barefoot and was a two time Olympic champion. He’s also the subject of a recent movie called ‘The Athlete’.
PS: This post is in memory of my cousin Naawa Simakoloyi who passed away exactly two months ago and was a rising soccer star.